Body Rides is a 1996 supernatural thriller novel by Richard Laymon. It is about Neal, a guy who, while driving through a bad neighborhood late at night, accidentally manages to save a young woman from a deranged sadistic killer. As a reward for saving her life, the woman gives Neal a magical golden bracelet. The artifact allows it's user to exit his/her own body in the form of incorporeal spirit and enter the bodies of other people. To see, hear and feel everything they experience, including their inner thoughts and emotions. This constitutes the titular body ride. At the same time, rider can not control a host body in any way, and can not even communicate with the host mind, being just a passive observer in a passenger seat.
Neal, excited and shocked by this sudden gift, tries to figure out what to do next. What he still doesn't know is that the psycho shot by him that night is not quite dead. He survived and wants revenge. Neal, the woman saved by him, and everyone close to him are now all in mortal danger...
This novel contains examples of:
- Action Girl: Both Marta and Sue, while having no fighting experience whatsoever, prove to be quite capable of taking on a Nigh-Invulnerable maniac and finally dispatching him.
- Ax-Crazy: Mad serial killer nicknamed Rasputin. He doesn't use an actual axe, but gets inventive with quite a few other hardware tools.
- Chick Magnet: For some reason, Neal never lacks the attention of beautiful ladies.
- Deadly Bath: Both Elise and Vincent meet their grisly end in the same bathtub at the hands of the same killer. One of those instances is a tearjerker, another is Karmic Death.
- Decoy Protagonist: Elise is initially played up as a major character and Neal's eventual love interest. She gets a good deal of characterization, she is portrayed very sympathetically, we get to know her inner thoughts and feelings, start being interested and intrigued by her. All the more shocking that she gets murdered in a horrific way before the book even gets to page 100. Discussed in later dialogue, mentioning that she subconsciously considered herself the main star of her own life movie. Unfortunately, it was not her story and she ended up Stuffed into the Fridge.
- Depraved Bisexual: The killer is not picky. Although he certainly prefers torturing, raping and killing young beautiful women, he's just as fine with doing it to male victims if they are attractive enough.
- Good People Have Good Sex: All the sex scenes (and there's a lot of them) are described as mind-blowingly good for all participants.
- The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: Neal and friends basically decide to turn tables on Rasputin and hunt him down using the magical bracelet.
- Knife Nut: Rasputin uses a hunting knife as his main weapon of choice and is actually never seen using guns.
- A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Some of the things that Neal finds when he takes body rides in random people are not exactly pleasant. Elise even warns him from the start that taking rides in your relatives and loved ones may be extremely dangerous and dissapointing.
- Mood Whiplash: Even at his happiest and most careless moments, Neal is often disturbed by his thoughts about the killer and graphic memories of Elise's mutilated body.
- Nigh-Invulnerable: The Big Bad is basically this. Although he seemingly doesn't possess any supernatural powers, he manages to survive multiple gunshot wounds (including one to the head!) at the start of the book. At the end he takes a full clip of ammo to the chest, gets stabbed in the heart, gets his throat cut, gets disemdowled, drowned - and after all that he still seems to be alive underwater and tries to hurt Marta with pliers. Off with His Head! treatment finally does the trick. Well, they don't call him Rasputin for nothing!
- Not Quite Dead: Rasputin's common gimmick is coming back alive after seemingly fatal injuries.
- Police Are Useless: Even lampshaded at some point by Neal, who points out how it seems that police doesn't even exist in this weird reality he found himself in.
- Porn with Plot: The novel may look like this to some readers due to abundance of rather steamy scenes.
- Psycho for Hire: Rasputin is a sadistic madman who loves torturing and killing people for fun. Sometimes though he has opportunities to do it for fun AND profit being basically Vince Conrad's occasional hitman.
- Rape as Drama: Surprisingly (for Laymon) almost completely averted. No rapes actually happen on-page.
- Ripped from the Headlines: The novel was written at the height of public attention to the O. J. Simpson murder trial and it shows.
- Seeing Through Another's Eyes: A more elaborate version of this trope, including access to all the senses of a host body, and ability to read/feel host's mind and subconciousness.
- Serial Killer: Almost all of Laymon's novels must have at least one. This book is not an exception.
- Sex by Proxy: Several instances including one unusual example of being inside a body of your partner who is at the same time having sex with your physical body. In other words, bracelet allows you to screw yourself, literally.
- Shout-Out: Amusement park in Boleta Bay from Laymon's other novel Funland gets mentioned as a possible hideout for the main character. He decides against it after remembering what happened there a few years ago.
- Technology Marches On: Early 90s technology all around. The whole story begins with Neal needing to return a couple of VHS movies to the video store. None of the major characters have a cell phone. At one time a pager is mentioned.
- Wish Fulfillment: Up to eleven! Especially in a romantic subplot. The most egregious example is probably this. Neal, the main character, goes out of town notifying his girlfriend Marta with only a note about his indefinite vacation at unspecified location. Then he returns a few days later with a strange new girl who he's instantly fallen in love with. His long-time girlfriend not only forgives him and allows them all to live in her appartment, but doesn't even break off her relationship with Neal, telling him that he can have both her and this new girl. More than that, a little while later Marta oh-so-conveniently turns out to be bisexual all along, and more than ready for a three-way.
- Writer on Board: Several instances on the subject of gun control and self-defence. Also some thinly-veiled jabs at the O. J. Simpson murder trial.
- Your Mind Makes It Real: Averted. While a rider can feel anything experienced by a host body, including all the possible pain and suffering, their physical body suffers no actual damage. The only real danger is being in the dying person at the moment of death and not bailing out in time.